Seemingly healthy kids as young as 10 can have stiffening of the arteries—an early warning sign of future heart attack or stroke risk in adulthood. That shocking discovery was reported in a new study published in Pediatrics. The study also found a simple way to identify at-risk kids and young adults.
Researchers from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC) reported that information from a standard cholesterol test can accurately predict which kids are likely to have abnormally stiff arteries—a disorder that has been strongly linked to higher risk for both heart attack and stroke in adults.
This abnormality, also known as “hardening of the arteries,” is an indication of accelerated arterial aging (meaning that the kids’ arteries are “older” than their chronological age). Stiff arteries during childhood could magnify the danger of suffering life-threatening cardiovascular events at an unusually early age as adults, says lead study author Elaine Urbina, MD, director of cardiology at CCHMC.
“The good news is that lifestyle changes, such as weight loss, more exercise, and a healthier diet, can dramatically reverse children’s cardiovascular risks if they’re caught early,” emphasizes Dr. Urbina.
A Generation At Risk
“If parents and healthcare providers don’t work harder to change their children’s poor lifestyle habits, we’ll be flooded with cases of young adults suffering heart attacks, strokes, or new-onset cases of type 2 diabetes, the fastest growing disease in the world,” says Bradley Bale, MD, medical director of the Heart Health Program for Grace Clinic in Lubbock, Texas.